In the early hours of Saturday morning, Ryan Mountcastle got a text from his dad.
The Orioles’ first baseman quickly realized what it meant. With a pinch-hit, walk-off home run from Cal Raleigh, the Seattle Mariners had just mathematically ended Baltimore’s playoff hopes.
About 13 hours later, the Orioles played a game that could largely be summed up by that text message, too. Their first game formally out of postseason contention was an 8-0 loss to the New York Yankees as one-time Orioles left-hander Nestor Cortes struck out 12 in 7 1/3 one-hit innings.
It was a letdown from the night before, when the Orioles (81-77) temporarily staved off elimination with a dramatic 2-1 victory over New York that ensured their first non-losing season since 2016.
“You’re gonna look flat and whatever when a guy’s carving you up,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just had nothing going on.”
A Rule 5 draftee that pitched in four games for Baltimore in the 2018 season that sparked the organization’s rebuild, Cortes continued his domination against his former team.
He struck out five of the first six Orioles as the Yankees (97-60) built a 4-0 lead off Austin Voth, including solo home runs from Giancarlo Stanton and Kyle Higashioka, though he got some help in the second when Oswald Peraza left third base early to turn what would have been a sacrifice fly into an inning-ending double play on a sliding catch by center fielder Cedric Mullins. Voth did not allow another run in completing five innings, but the outing still marked the first time since Baltimore claimed him on waivers from Washington that he allowed more than three earned runs. In 22 appearances, 17 of them starts, he has a 3.04 ERA with Baltimore after posting a 10.13 mark as a Nationals reliever. Hyde said the Orioles haven’t officially decided whether his season is over with four games left.
“This organization has helped me so much so far,” Voth said, “just when it comes to analytics and when it comes down to my mechanics and helping me out any way possible. I feel like they’ve completely changed me for the most part, and going forward, I feel like I’ve put myself in a good place for more opportunities in the future.”
Cortes, meanwhile, did not allow a hit in the first four innings, with walks to Jorge Mateo and Mountcastle accounting for Baltimore’s lone base runners. Mateo’s two-out single in the fifth ended the no-hit bid. The Orioles threatened to end the shutout with Mountcastle’s single and Adley Rutschman’s double in the ninth, but it only continued their struggles with runners in scoring position.
In seven career appearances against the Orioles, Cortes has a 1.06 ERA, 0.853 WHIP and 51 strikeouts in 34 innings. Both of his career-best 12-strikeout games have come against Baltimore.
“His stuff was on point today,” said rookie Gunnar Henderson, who had three of his four strikeouts against Cortes. “He was locating pretty well. His fastball was playing up, and then he was able to change arm angles and still keep it in the zone, so it was pretty tough. Pretty much facing two pitchers, and you don’t know which one is going to come.”
As much as Cortes might have frustrated the Orioles’ hitters Saturday, it couldn’t compare to what Baltimore’s pitchers did to the 45,428 fans announced in attendance when it came to how they handled Aaron Judge. With Judge’s 61 home runs tied for the American League single-season record, the Orioles largely avoided the strike zone against the slugger, though it came back to bite them.
Down 2-0 against Judge to open the first, Voth hit the star outfielder to prompt an avalanche of boos, and Judge eventually scored the first of the frame’s three runs. Spenser Watkins opened the seventh by walking Judge on five pitches, with the Yankee Stadium crowd chanting an obscenity toward Watkins in response. Three hits followed as New York doubled its lead.
Asked by a local reporter whether the chants “amused” him, Watkins replied, “No, it’s just Yankees fans.”
More boos came when Watkins fell behind 3-0 against Judge in the eighth, but he recovered to strike him out to push Judge’s pursuit of history to Sunday’s series finale. In the first two games of the series, Judge is 1-for-4 with four walks, three strikeouts and a hit-by-pitch. Voth said the Orioles’ plan has been to pitch him away in hopes of minimizing his ability to do damage.
“I get it,” Hyde said of the boos. “They’re wanting to see something special. It’s a cool moment. Our guy on the mound’s trying to do his job also.
“We’re just trying to get him out. We’re trying to make pitches to him. If the game situation calls for it, we’ll be a little bit more careful with him, but today, that really didn’t come into play.”
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
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